As a third year theater major I have to completely disagree with last week’s letter from Jacob Leveton regarding the theater department’s place at ULV [“Letters to the Editor,” April 29].
Theater attendance is low, but the theater program is understaffed and chooses to focus energy on the productions rather than publicity, as that is its first priority. The students are what is most important to the department, not who comes to see them.
The author also said that speech communications teaches skills that are useful outside the area of speech communications, like job interviewing skills. The theater does exactly the same thing all the time; what do you think an audition is? Theater students are taught to be well-prepared, to speak clearly, listen to the person auditioning you, and to be confident in yourself. Those are extremely useful skills that are basic to a theater education and can be applied anywhere.
And it’s not just speaking skills; the theater offers education in current computer software. For stage design, drafting software is taught. PowerPoint is the preferred tool for theater presentations, Quark XPress and Photoshop are constantly in use by students to produce programs and posters for shows and students are also trained in iMovie in order to make high-quality DVD/VHS recordings of performances. While it may be true that understanding Beckett or Moliere may not help get a job, familiarity with the software programs certainly could.
The letter also asked if the theater can make as strong a claim to diversity as speech communications, which visits several different continents. In addition to wide ethnic diversity, there is a great diversity of beliefs, political leanings, economic status and sexuality in theater. The theater department is not interested in saying, “We represent every person in the world,” but rather, “There is a world inside every person that must be represented.”
It was pointed out that the theater department has not produced any famous alumni and I fail to see why it matters. Theater priority is not to have famous people coming back and bringing honor to the department, it is interested in honoring a student’s needs and giving him/her the best education possible. What a student does after leaving ULV is left up to the student and the department provides the tools for success. If all departments were judged based on who they produced, then the original editorial “Budget shows ULV’s true priorities” [April 22] would be correct in saying that all ULV cares about are the departments that will produce the richest alumni.
It’s not surprising that a student at ULV would be unfamiliar with alumni successes, the history of this University, and the people who have walked across this campus as students and faculty during the 100-plus years since the founding of this institution. We don’t do enough to share that history. I am a little disappointed that Jacob Leveton, a senior, who has not been involved with music, theater, or art at ULV would make such uninformed and aggressive comments. I’m also not sure why he had a need to defend the many accomplishments of the speech communications department as though there is a competition with music and theater. The accomplishments of the ULV debate program are well known, honored, and respected, as are the faculty who have built and continue such a fine tradition. I won’t defend the opinion to which Mr. Leveton refers, nor will I attack it. That is not my point.
Of course I will assume that Jacob is not a part of the debate team for which he thought he spoke. I think it would be extremely embarrassing to Prof. Lising and the University if Jacob’s letter represented the research necessary for that practice. It would be very easy for someone to dig into the track record of the ULV music and theater departments because we have archived our performances for many years. If Jacob is a part of the debate team at ULV, his letter certainly negates the respect I have had for the “world rankings” to which he refers.
Mr. Leveton did challenge the music department to, in effect, list our student accomplishments, diversity and graduates who have been successful. Unfortunately, space limitations do not allow me to do that here but a list of these successes can be found at www.ulv.edu/music for anyone interested.
Jacob obviously doesn’t “get it” when it comes to understanding music, art, theater, personal expression and its connection to humanness and spirituality. And he certainly does not understand what a liberal arts education is about. I’m disappointed, no, embarrassed, that he’s learned nothing about that during his time at ULV. By the way, I’d ask my esteemed colleague Prof. Lamkin for her input, but she is one of a couple of scholars invited to Vienna to study newly-found manuscripts of Franz Joseph Haydn, written in 18th-century German.
Jacob, good luck after graduation. Without art in your life, you’ll need it.
Professor of Music
It would seem that Mr. Leveton, following proper debate etiquette, employed the customary 15 minutes when preparing his argument against the music and theater departments. One cannot hold this fidelity to common practice against him, and it would most surely explain his lack of research when he made many of his general and incorrect statements, which elicited readers to both chuckle and gnash their teeth from last week’s “Letters to the Editor.”
I applaud and admire the debate team’s talent and achievements. I also believe a speech communications degree would enhance the life of any who would pursue it. In response to Mr. Leveton’s implied assertions that music and theater do not communicate, I must respectfully contradict him.
The arts are solely contingent upon and driven by the need to communicate. There is an immeasurable intrinsic value within this form of communication, which students majoring in criminology, history, sociology, English, psychology, computer science, math, anthropology, journalism, communications, chemistry, liberal studies, movement and sports science, international business, broadcasting and of course music and theater, have realized and manifested through their participation in the music and theater departments. Both departments have community outreach programs such as the music department’s Kids Club concert series, the theater department’s connection with the Renaissance Academy and high school festivals, which spread this value beyond the boundaries of the Central Campus. This value also encourages a pursuit of lifelong learning, which, if one is not careful, may seem very nearly like the University’s Mission Statement.
Mr. Leveton asserts that no one “famous” has emerged from the music or theater departments (of which he is mistaken). It’s a shame that Mr. Leveton feels a department must justify itself through such shallow means.
As far as our faculty is concerned, Georji Paro, director of this season’s engrossing “Life’s a Dream,” has been head of the Croatian National Theater. We have faculty members such as Kathy Lamkin, professor of music, who until last year was vice president of the International College Music Society. Steve Kent and David Flaten have directed in venues across the nation as well as internationally in Croatia. Rose Portillo is a working professional with plays lined up for performance. Timothy Durkovic is an internationally acclaimed pianist who is also the head of our keyboard studies program and an artist in residence. I gladly invite Mr. Leveton to take the time to experience more of the programs offered by the ULV theater and music departments, and once seen and experienced, construct a more educated argument against this valuable campus resource.
The seems to be something more behind this sort of competition among students and their respective departments. Why such factionalism? What seems to be most relevant to all students is that they be able to participate in school activities which enhance and enrich their lives and which carry forth this institution’s Mission Statement. These extracurricular and co-curricular activities are endangered, however, at the whims and fancies of our University policymakers: No measure of tangible success ensures the continuation of any program on campus, as demonstrated through the untimely dismissal of the popular, successful and nationally recognized men’s volleyball team. I fear that without a discourse from students more programs which enhance student life will vanish at the fingertips of those who decide such things, and whom, as employees of this institution, you as students employ through your tuition.
I therefore challenge all students to begin a discourse to question the priorities and intentions behind the policies and policymakers of this institution: for we now have a bankrupt and bastardized Athens campus; satellite campuses which divert attention from full-time students on the central campus; a law school which, despite all the dollars thrown its way, has yet to be accredited; slashes and impositions of unfair conditions on performance awards; and a system of determining faculty members’ worth according to discipline and not by talent or effectiveness in carrying out the Mission Statement. I believe so strongly that all students should take pride in their institution and should take the steps to ensure that such pride is well founded. I also encourage the policymakers of this school to remain true to the Mission Statement when deciding its priorities and designing its policies.
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